Ben Webster

Ben Meets Don Byas

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This early-'70s meeting between two giants of the tenor sax (both of whom by this time were living in Europe on a permanent basis) is full of memorable moments. The styles of Ben Webster and Don Byas provide a distinct contrast (though Byas was also a swing-influenced saxophonist, he was heavily into bop as well), yet they mesh very well together. On their opening improvised "Blues for Dottie Mae," Webster's big-toned swing tends to dominate, though Byas' boppish lines dart around at lightning speeds; Tete Montoliu's bluesy piano provides the perfect support. The roles are evened out a bit more on a swinging take of "Sunday." The evenly matched tenor battle continues with a rousing "Perdido" and very swinging "Caravan." Bassist Peter Trunk introduces Byas' "Lullaby to Dottie Mae," an easygoing reworking of the timeless ballad "Body and Soul," which features a rapid-fire solo by Byas. Webster's turn in the solo spotlight is his own ballad "When Ash Meets Henry," in which he is accompanied only by Trunk's well-chosen basslines. Also present on the date is drummer Albert "Tootie" Heath. Sadly, this LP was a bit of a swan song for both tenor saxophonists; Byas died in the year prior to its 1973 release, while Webster died the following year, though he taped at least one more album following this one.

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